chapter  12
6 Pages

Guests and Visitors

I have argued elsewhere1 that the contemporary English man or woman’s sense of identity depends above all on the certainty of his or her class position and the presence, real or fantasied, of members of other English social classes to confirm their own estimate. I have made or participated in a number of nationwide surveys in the last twenty-three years; and in none of them have more than 2% been unable or unwilling to place themselves within a seven-class structure. Among these refusals were a number of ideological statements of disapproval of the existing class hierarchy; but orphaned and unmarried women were often in genuine perplexity. As a generalisation one can say that English class position is determined by men but maintained by women. The father determines the class position of his sons and daughters at birth; at marriage the girls assume the class position of their husbands; so it is understandable that a woman without father or husband is genuinely perplexed. The role of women in maintaining the class position of their husbands and children, especially in the middle classes, should be constantly borne in mind. English men may easily strike up friendships with people outside their social class or of other nationalities at work or elsewhere outside their home; whether the husband’s or son’s friends will be welcomed into the home depends on the wife or mother.